9 Health Conditions to Be Aware of When You Adopt a Golden Retriever

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By Meredith Nash, PopSugar

Everyone loves the Golden Retriever: known for their loyalty, luscious fur, and activeness, they're practically the perfect puppy friend. And while thinking about our pup getting sick is a heart-wrenching proposition, it's important to know how our dog's health may progress as they get older, especially since it often happens when we least expect it. Golden retrievers in particular face some specific types of ailments that all owners should be aware of. Being informed on these 10 common health issues means you can catch them early for medical attention and be in better sync with your beloved pet. Goldens are incredibly lovable, popular dogs and are one of our best companions - so here's what you need to know to manage their health as thoroughly as you would your own! Click through this gallery to keep reading.

Hip Displasia

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One common health issue in Golden Retrievers is hip dysplasia, a form of arthritis that causes growths in the joint of the dog's hips. "While hip dysplasia can be hereditary, it is very common in larger dogs like Goldens," said veterinarian Dr. Benedetta Sarno, PhD, DVM. This can happen because the socket may be too shallow, the joint may be too deformed, or the ligament in the area may not be strong enough. Dr. Sarno explained that improper nutrition and obesity can also be causes. Normally, this joint functions smoothly so the active dog can easily walk, run, and get up and down. But if left untreated, a dog may not be able to walk again. "If you're seeing decreased activity, pain, or loss of muscle mass, I mainly recommend weight reduction, anti-inflammatories, and even physical therapy," Dr. Sarno said.

Chest Problems

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Since Golden Retrievers are a larger breed, issues with the heart and lungs can also be quite common. Subvalvular aortic stenosis (SAS), when the part of the heart that carries oxygenated blood out of the heart is narrowed, subsequently causing blockages, is a common ailment in Golden Retrievers. But there's an upside: "A lot of dogs with SAS are typically asymptomatic, and it rarely progresses to something more serious," Dr. Sarno explained. "While there are surgical options to excise abnormal tissue, the procedure is rarely performed because of the few studies proving it helps." This issue can be apparent if your dog is more lethargic than usual. If you notice this, it's best to bring your dog for an annual checkup.

Skin Issues

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The Morris Animal Foundation states that "skin problems are one of the most common reasons owners take their dog to a veterinarian." Luckily, most skin issues are as scary as they sound - some can be as simple as an ear infection or allergic reaction. Others occur when mold, dirt, food, fleas, or other invasive items grow under your animal's skin. Most common, according to Dr. Sarno, are lipomas - benign masses made up of fat cells. "Treatments may involve surgery, change in diet, and the infiltration of calcium chloride," she said.


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Unfortunately, according to the Morris Animal Foundation, 60 percent of Golden Retrievers are impacted by cancer. You can watch for signs like an obvious mass, weight loss, or difficulty eating, but much like cancer in humans, we know very little about a cure. "Chemo and radiation therapy are sometimes used in combination to treat cancer in dogs," Dr. Sarno explained. "But sometimes the next step is considering your pet's quality of life when symptoms get serious." 

Von Willebrand Disease

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VWD is a bleeding disorder often developed hereditarily. Veterinarian Ann F. Hubbs writes for the Golden Retriever Club of America, "Goldens can develop a tendency to bleed with resulting excessive bruising, bleeding from the gums, and other mucous membranes, or bleeding during surgery. Bleeding tendencies most often result from cancer, autoimmune diseases, liver failure, toxin exposure, or infectious diseases that affect the ability of the blood to clot. In other cases there is an inherited defect in the ability to clot blood." Without the ability to clot blood, VWD can be fatal. However, "many doctors are currently working with genetic testing to find a potential cure for the disorder," Dr. Sarno said.

Patellar Luxation

© Getty / Darren Boucher

Patellar luxation, or "loose knees," is a congenital disease where the kneecap often comes out of position. While this issue can be identified quickly as dogs will limp, skip, and have abnormal sitting positions, it may not be noticed until about six weeks of age, according to dog-walking site Wag. "Depending on the severity and movement of the patella, a vet may recommend surgery," Dr. Sarno said. "It also helps when owners support the treatment with joint supplements and pain-relief methods." Think: steroids, pain relievers, braces, and bandages. And even better, the prognosis is usually positive. Dogs can live with the disease while still leading a healthy, normal life!


© Getty / JML Images

Goldens are predisposed to cataracts, like are often seen in older humans, and they can usually be easily seen. "Cataracts often occur from disease, old age, or trauma to the eye," Dr. Sarno said. "If you notice your dog's eyes are looking cloudy, it might be time to see a vet. Surgery can be performed so the cataract doesn't slip from the tissue that holds it in place." Treatments can also include oral supplements or eye drops. Though cataracts can cause poor vision or blindness, a dog can still continue to live a happy life!

Thyroid Problems

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The thyroid gland, located in your dog's neck, produces the hormone thyroxine, along with several other important hormones. When the gland is underproducing hormones, your dog suffers from hyperthyroidism, causing symptoms like lethargy, weight gain, changes in coat and skin, exercise intolerance, mental dullness, and more, according to the American Kennel Club. If diagnosed early, the impacts can be less severe, however, the only true way to avoid the disease is to look at issues within breeding. "Hypothyroidism is usually treated with an oral replacement hormone," Dr. Sarno explained. "Unfortunately, your pet will probably have to take daily medication for the rest of his/her life."


© Getty / Maya Karkalicheva

Epilepsy is one of the most common neurologic problems in Golden Retrievers. According to the Morris Animal Foundation, these seizures can come in different forms: small, localized seizures (e.g. a part of the face twitches) or generalized seizures (e.g. involving the entire brain and multiple areas of the body). In dogs, a generalized seizure presents with symptoms like chewing, salivating, and paddling of the legs. While they aren't common and can resolve over time (especially if related to another health condition like liver disease), you should get the issue checked out as soon as possible. "Many things can trigger seizures in our beloved animals, but the exact cause is still unknown," Dr. Sarno said. "We often treat seizures with antiseizure medications like phenobarbital or potassium bromide."

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Pets Magazine: 9 Health Conditions to Be Aware of When You Adopt a Golden Retriever
9 Health Conditions to Be Aware of When You Adopt a Golden Retriever
Pets Magazine
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